There is always the harrowing by mortality, the strafing by age, he thinks. Always defeats. Sorrows come like epidemics. But we are alive in the difficult way adults want to be alive. It is worth having the heart broken, a blessing to hurt for eighteen years because a woman is dead. He thinks of long before that, the summer he was with Gianna and her sister in Apulia. Having outwitted the General, their father, and driven south to the estate of the Contessa. Like an opera. The fiefdom stretching away to the horizon. Houses of the peasants burrowed into the walls of the compound. A butler with white gloves serving chicken in aspic. The pretty maid in her uniform bringing his breakfast each morning on a silver tray: toast both light and dark, hot chocolate and tea both. A world like Tosca. A feudal world crushed under the weight of passion without feeling. Gianna’s virgin body helplessly in love. The young man wild with romance and appetite. Wondering whether he would ruin her by mistake.
The Poles rode out from Warsaw against the German Tanks on horses. Rode knowing, in sunlight, with sabers, A magnitude of beauty that allows me no peace. And yet this poem would lessen that day. Question The bravery. Say it's not courage. Call it a passion. Would say courage isn't that. Not at its best. It was impossib1e, and with form. They rode in sunlight, Were mangled. But I say courage is not the abnormal. Not the marvelous act. Not Macbeth with fine speeches. The worthless can manage in public, or for the moment. It is too near the whore's heart: the bounty of impulse, And the failure to sustain even small kindness. Not the marvelous act, but the evident conclusion of being. Not strangeness, but a leap forward of the same quality. Accomplishment. The even loyalty. But fresh. Not the Prodigal Son, nor Faustus. But Penelope. The thing steady and clear. Then the crescendo. The real form. The culmination. And the exceeding. Not the surprise. The amazed understanding. The marriage, Not the month's rapture. Not the exception. The beauty That is of many days. Steady and clear. It is the normal excellence, of long accomplishment.